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A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
1300's and Earlier 1400's 1500's 1600's 1700's 1801-1850 1851-1900 1901-1950 1951-2000
Clothing Communication Food Fun Medicine Science/Industry Transportation Undersea
African-Americans Women British Isles China France Germany Greece Italy Scandinavia USA/Canada

Clothing-Related Inventors and Inventions

Levi StraussBLUE JEANS
Levi Strauss (1829-1902) was an entrepreneur who invented and marketed blue jeans. Trained as a tailor in Buttenheim, Bavaria, Germany, Strauss went to San Francisco, USA from New York in 1853. Strauss sold dry goods, including tents and linens to the 49ers (the people who came to the California gold rush, which began in 1849). In 1873, Strauss and Jacob Davis, a Nevada tailor, patented the idea (devised by Davis) of using copper rivets at the stress points of sturdy work pants. Early levis, called "waist overalls," came in a brown canvas duck fabric and a heavy blue denim fabric. The duck fabric pants were not very successful, so were dropped early on. His business became extremely successful (and still is), revolutionizing the apparel industry.
COTTON GIN
The cotton gin is a machine that cleans cotton, removing its many seeds. This device revolutionized the cotton industry. Previously, this tedious job had been done by hand, using two combs. Eli Whitney (1765-1825) was an American inventor and engineer who invented the cotton gin; he patented the cotton gin on March 14, 1794. The cotton gin made much of the southern United States very rich, but cotton plantation owners rarely paid Whitney for the use of his invention, and Whitney went out of business.
sewing machineHOWE, ELIAS
Elias Howe (1819-1867) was American inventor who patented an improved sewing machine in 1846. His revolutionary machine used two separate threads, one threaded through the needle, and one in a shuttle; it was powered by a hand crank. A sideways-moving needle with its eye at one end would pierce the fabric, creating a loop of thread on the other side; a shuttle would then push thread through the loop, creating a tight lock stitch. Earlier sewing machines used only one thread and a chain stitch that could unravel. Howe's business did not thrive. Others, like Isaac Singer made slight modifications in the machine and built successful businesses. Howe sued those who had infringed on his patent and won royalties on all machines sold (he was paid $5.00 for each sewing machine sold). Howe died the year his patent expired.
IRON, ELECTRIC
The electric iron was invented in 1882 by Henry W. Seeley, a New York inventor Seeley patented his "electric flatiron" on June 6, 1882 (patent no. 259,054). His iron weighed almost 15 pounds and took a long time to warm up.

Other electric irons had also been invented, including one from France (1882), but it used a carbon arc to heat the iron, a method which was dangerous.

JUDSON, WHITCOMB L.
JudsonzipperWhitcomb L. Judson was an American engineer from Chicago, Illinois, who invented a metal zipper device with locking teeth in 1890. Judson patented his "clasp-locker'' on Aug. 29, 1893; later in 1893, he exhibited this new invention at the Chicago World's Fair. He never succeeded in marketing his new device. The zipper was improved by the Swedish-American engineer, Gideon Sundbach, and was named by the B.F. Goodrich company in 1923. Judson died in 1909, before his device became commonly used and well-known
KEVLAR
Kevlar (poly[p-phenyleneterephtalamide]) is a polymer fiber that is five times stronger than the same weight of steel. Kevlar is used in bullet-proof vests, helmets, trampolines, tennis rackets, and many other commonly-used objects. Kevlar was invented by Stephanie Louise Kwolek and was first marketed by DuPont in 1971.
KWOLEK, STEPHANIE LOUISE
Stephanie Louise Kwolek (1923- ) is an American chemist who discovered kevlar and many other para-aramid fibers. Kevlar (poly[p-phenyleneterephtalamide]) is a polymer fiber that is five times stronger than the same weight of steel. Kevlar is used in bullet-proof vests, helmets, trampolines, tennis rackets, and many other commonly-used objects.
MESTRAL, GEORGE DE
George de Mestral was a Swiss engineer who invented Velcro in 1948. While hiking, he had noticed that burrs (burdock seeds) stuck to his clothing extraordinarily well. The burrs had hook-like protrusions that attached themselves firmly to clothing. Mestral used this same model to develop Velcro, which consists of one strip of nylon with loops, and another with hooks. Mestral patented Velcro in 1957. It was originally used mostly for fastening clothes, but is now used to fasten many other things.
PANTYHOSE
Pantyhose was invented in 1959 by Allen Gant of North Carolina, USA, in 1959. This new undergarment became popular as miniskirts were the fashion and soon came to replace nylon stockings held up with a garter belt (short skirts were not long enough to hide the bottom of the garter belt). Gant was associated with the Glen Raven Mills textile mill (he was a descendant of the founder of the mill, John Gant), the company that first manufactured pantyhose.
RAYON
Rayon is a cellulose-based fiber that is made from wood pulp or cotton waste. Rayon is used as a substitute for silk. It was invented around 1855 by the Swiss chemist Georges Audemars; the process was refined in 1864 by the French chemist and industrialist Comte (Count) Hilaire Bernigaud de Chardonnet (1839-1924). Rayon was first commercially produced in 1910 by Avtex Fibers Inc. in the United States - it was called "artificial silk" at first, but the name was changed to rayon in 1924.
SAFETY PIN
safety pinThe safety pin was invented by Walter Hunt in 1849. Hunt 1795-1859) patented the safety pin on April 10, 1849 (patent No. 6,281). Hunt's pin was made by twisting a length of wire. Hunt invented the safety pin in order to pay a debt of $15; he eventually sold the rights to his patent for $400.

For more information, click here .

SCISSORS
scissorsscissorsScissors were invented thousands of years ago (roughly 1500 B.C.) in ancient Egypt. Early scissors have been found in ancient Egyptian ruins. These early scissors were made from one piece of metal (unlike modern scissors, which are made from two cross-blades which pivot around a fulcrum). Modern cross-bladed scissors were invented in ancient Rome (roughly A.D. 100). Early scissors were used by clothes makers and barbers. Scissors were not in common use until much later, in the 1500's (in Europe).
sewing machineSEWING MACHINE
The first functional sewing machine was invented by the French tailor Barthélemy Thimonnier in 1830. Other tailors feared for their livelihood, and burnt his workshop down. Elias Howe was American inventor who patented an improved sewing machine in 1846. Howe's revolutionary machine used two separate threads, one threaded through the needle, and one in a shuttle; it was powered by a hand crank. A sideways-moving needle with its eye at one end would pierce the fabric, creating a loop of thread on the other side; a shuttle would then push thread through the loop, creating a tight lock stitch. Earlier sewing machines used only one thread and a chain stitch that could unravel. Howe's business did not thrive. Others, like Isaac M. Singer made slight modifications in the machine and built successful businesses. Howe sued those who had infringed on his patent and won royalties on all machines sold (he was paid $5.00 for each sewing machine sold). Howe died the year his patent expired.
SILK
Silk was first made by the Chinese about 4,000 years ago. Silk thread is made from the cocoon of the silkworm moth (Bombyx mori), a small moth whose caterpillar eats the leaves of the mulberry tree.

According to Chinese legend, the first silk thread was made when the Chinese Empress Si-Ling-Chi was sitting under a mulberry tree and a cocoon fell into her tea; she noticed the strong, silky threads of the cocoon uncoiling. She then developed the use of silk.

For more information on the development of silk, click here.

Levi StraussSTRAUSS, LEVI
Levi Strauss (1829-1902) was an entrepreneur who invented and marketed blue jeans. Trained as a tailor in Buttenheim, Bavaria, Germany, Strauss went to San Francisco, USA from New York in 1853. Strauss sold dry goods, including tents and linens to the 49ers (the people who came to the California gold rush, which began in 1849). In 1873, Strauss and Jacob Davis, a Nevada tailor, patented the idea (devised by Davis) of using copper rivets at the stress points of sturdy work pants. Early levis, called "waist overalls," came in a brown canvas duck fabric and a heavy blue denim fabric. The duck fabric pants were not very successful, so were dropped early on. His business became extremely successful (and still is), revolutionizing the apparel industry.
SundbachzipperSUNDBACH, GIDEON
The zipper was improved by the Swedish-American engineer, Gideon Sundbach, in 1913. Sundbach was also successful at selling his "Hookless 2." Sundbach sold these fasteners to the US Army, who put zippers on soldiers' clothing and gear during World War I.

The word zipper was coined by B.F. Goodrich in 1923, whose company sold rubber galoshes equipped with zippers. Goodrich is said to have named them zippers because he liked the zipping sound they made when opened and closed.

UMBRELLA
umbrellaThe umbrella was invented thousands of years ago. The earliest umbrellas were made to shade the user from the sun (an umbrella used as a sun shade is called a parasol). Umbrellas were used as much a 4,000 years ago in ancient Assyria, China, Egypt, and Greece. The Chinese were probably the first to waterproof the umbrella for use in the rain; they used wax and lacquer (a type of paint) to repel the rain. Samuel Fox (1815 - 1887), an English inventor and manufacturer, invented the steel ribbed umbrella in 1852 (wood or whale bone had been used before this).
VELCRO
George de Mestral was a Swiss engineer who invented Velcro in 1948. While hiking, he had noticed that burrs (burdock seeds) stuck to his clothing extraordinarily well. The burrs had hook-like protrusions that attached themselves firmly to clothing. Mestral used this same model to develop Velcro, which consists of one strip of nylon with loops, and another with hooks. Mestral patented Velcro in 1957. It was originally used mostly for fastening clothes, but is now used to fasten many other things.
WHITNEY, ELI
Eli Whitney (1765-1825) was an American inventor and engineer. Whitney invented the cotton gin and the idea of interchangeable parts. He patented the cotton gin, which revolutionized the cotton industry on March 14, 1794. The cotton gin is a machine that cleans cotton, removing its many seeds. Previously, this tedious job had been done by hand, using two combs. The cotton gin made much of the southern United States very rich, but cotton plantation owners rarely paid Whitney for the use of his invention, and Whitney went out of business. He never patented his later inventions (like his milling machine). Whitney also helped modernize the musket industry (and mass production in general) by introducing the idea of interchangeable parts in a manufacturing system.
JudsonzipperZIPPER
Whitcomb L. Judson was an American engineer from Chicago, Illinois, who invented the zipper. Judson patented his "clasp-locker'' on Aug. 29, 1893; later in 1893, he exhibited this new invention at the Chicago World's Fair. He and Lewis Walker founded the Universal Fastener Company to manufacture these fasteners. They never succeeded in selling Judson's new device. Judson died in 1909, before his device became commonly used and well known.

SundbachThe zipper was improved in 1913 by the Swedish-American engineer, Gideon Sundbach (a former employee of Judson). Sundbach was successful at selling his invention, which he called the "Hookless 2." He sold these fasteners to the US Army, who put zippers on soldiers' clothing and gear during World War I.

The word zipper was coined by B.F. Goodrich in 1923, whose company sold rubber galoshes equipped with zippers. Goodrich is said to have named them zippers because he liked the zipping sound they made when opened and closed.

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A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
1300's and Earlier 1400's 1500's 1600's 1700's 1801-1850 1851-1900 1901-1950 1951-2000
Clothing Communication Food Fun Medicine Science/Industry Transportation Undersea
African-Americans Women British Isles China France Germany Greece Italy Scandinavia USA/Canada
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